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Opinion

November 30, 2017

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The technocratic mantra

The fatigue associated with the political process in the country has surfaced among a few so-called experts and technocrats who have served dictators in the past. A picture of the failed political system and its fallen civilians is now being depicted from television studios.
Even a non-partisan view of technocratic governments in Pakistan would not condone their rule or, for that matter, another unconstitutional takeover. But the voices of those who support such an arrangement have surfaced because they represent the lost glory of this country – as if there were any glory bestowed upon us by them. For them, nostalgia is akin to what Muslims in British India felt for the Mughal rulers and the connection the ‘Islamists’ have with an imagined lost glory of the empire of which they were not even part of.
What makes a modern nation state a lawful entity is the constitution and the mandate of the people. If we deprive the legal entity of these two elements, nothing can justify its rightful existence and no other legal framework or doctrine of necessity can give it legitimacy. It, therefore, becomes an occupation of the people’s land and their right to rule. This is punishable under the constitution.
The preachers of the technocratic form of the government must tell us where else in the world such forms of government have been sustainable and successful? Is this a tradition that should be followed and practised in our part of the world?
China is not a democratic country in the strictest sense of the word. But its leadership, elected by the party’s selected quorum, stems from the political process. As a result, the leadership can’t merely be viewed as a group of experts. Above all, they do not come from a profit-making private sector to rule and manage the country. Instead, they come from a party that has a revolutionary legacy of sacrifices, struggle and victory.
When we come across bogus reasoning that supports technocratic arrangements in

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Pakistan, we fail to understand its underlying basis. There are two periods in the country’s history that are mentioned as ‘success stories’: the tenures of Ayub Khan and General Musharraf.
Growth rates are not the sole basis of gauging social and political cohesion in the country. The high growth rate during Ayub Khan’s rule could not prevent the dismemberment of the country in 1971. What is important for a nation-state? Growth or unity and sovereignty? Gen Ayub not only laid the basis for the breakup of Pakistan but also sowed the seeds for economic inequality and the dominance of the business elite in the country.
In a federal democracy, which is already marked by unequal structures, technocrats do not come from all regions and their ethnic associations become questionable. During his tenure, Musharraf was told that his top cabinet didn’t include Sindhi members. As a result, he named Shamshad Akhtar Detho from Sindh, as the governor of the State Bank. She was relieved from the Asian Development Bank to assume the position. After her tenure ended, she went back to the ADB.
These questions matter and remain relevant because countries are not private limited companies. They cannot be run in the same way as kings govern their populace as fiefdoms. We must view a technocratic arrangement not as a government but as a form of takeover – a dangerous unconstitutional proposition that will expose the faultlines in national cohesion, weaken the federation and undermine the constitutional share in a representative government.
As students of Pakistan’s political history, we must not fall into the trap of assuming that democratic governments have failed Pakistan. Instead, it is the era of military regimes and the long years without constitutional governments that earned us a bad name and resulted in disastrous consequences. Technocratic and caretaker setups have overstepped their constitutional mandates and caused irreparable damage to the system. For example, what legitimacy and mandate did a caretaker government have to decide on the Sixth National Finance Commission Award (NFC) in 1997? Unfortunately, the NFC Award was approved by a Sindhi nationalist Mumtaz Bhutto even though it was unjust and unconstitutional.
The raison d’etre of a federation and the guarantee for it to last lies in the consent of the constituent units – ie, the provinces – that have never approved of technocratic governments in the past and will resist attempts to undo the constitutional gains made by the 18th Amendment.
The recent chaos witnessed in the capital was an attempt to undo the political dispensation in the country. The politicisation of religion undermined democracy and eventually ended with a top official of the Rangers distributing cheques among the miscreants who had held the capital hostage for three weeks (as seen in a viral video footage).
The technocratic mantra is nothing but another form of the defunct Article 58(2B). In a debate on the “idea of technocratic takeover of Pakistan”, Washington-based scholar Javed Bhutto remarked: “The first and foremost issue is the existence of the nations which form Pakistan. No argument of the so-called technical development and an increase in the GDP can replace the basic existential right of the nations which form Pakistan. No economic, religious, ideological, political, administrative and ‘good governance’ arguments can replace the real political issue of Pakistan. Pakistan and its ‘spin doctors’ must learn from…1971. The states may increase their GDPs during martial laws even while being dismembered”.
A technocratic takeover is simply an attempt to remove the democratic government unconstitutionally. The avowed successes of such governments, such as producing more PhD scholars, must be reconsidered. How can a few hundred PhD holders change the educational landscape in Pakistan? While the numbers of PhDs have increased, there is no sign of development. Many of them are seen seeking jobs with donor organisations, writing reports to pave the way for their funding and voicing reasons to pump in more money. Our experience has shown that technocratic governments are a sham. All they do is seek the removal of the elected government of the people.
Technocratic rule is a cover because now it is difficult for unconstitutional take-overs in the country as most of the reasons and justifications are now history. We have heard these explanations for a long time and people are bored with this formula. It hasn’t worked and it won’t work.
Email: mush.rajpar@gmail.com
Twitter: @MushRajpar

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